Saturday, 19 April 2014

Don't worry if you couldn't vote this year...

For the past few days my Feed has been inundated with photos of people's inked thumbs. Like all Big Events, the Lok Sabha 2014 elections caused all manner of sharing across the various media, and it's always a sight to see. But amidst all the hopeful, proud photos of people there was a saddened set of people. A fair number wanted to vote but weren't able to for some reason. Either they were traveling or they weren't registered or their names were not to be found or whatever.

To be fair, I can't even begin to imagine the sheer logistical nightmare it must be to organize an election across more than a billion people! But still it kinda sucks when these things happen. But there's hope yet, assuming that the you really wanted to "make a difference". 

Just do something. 

Do anything for that matter, anything at all!

Educate yourself about nationally important topics, read up on a little economic theory, make a video about an issue or a charity that's important to you, volunteer at your old school, mentor someone who you think you might have something to teach, volunteer on a local clean-up drive, help out at an NGO, check out your company's CSR division, do anything! If you're really into it you might even build the next social enterprise that ends up bringing clean drinking water to a whole bunch of people.

And yes, of course these things are hard. Of course these actions take time. Even to donate money to someone like a requires more time than it takes to walk to the polling station and vote. But then again, whoever said that all it took to be a good citizen was to press a little blue button once every five years. The truth is that while voting is quite important, it's really only the least you can do as a good citizen.

The truth is...


The truth is that you are so much more capable than you've been led to believe. 

Think of all the skills that you've acquired over all these years. Think of how much difference it would make if even one of those skills was something that could bring joy to someone else. And don't worry about "Changing the World" and all that nonsense, just tend to your little corner of the universe as best as you can.

Think of what would happen if your efforts were to start accumulating. What if others started following suit, tending to their own little corners as best as they can. 55% voter turnout in Bangalore is low? Nonsense, think of what even 55% of that 55% could do if they all started looking outward a little bit.

The truth is that you are so. much. more. capable than you've been led to believe. Some quick pointers though:
  1. Don't try to do it all at once.
  2. Don't assume that you always know what's best for everyone, and
  3. Don't worry that your efforts aren't big enough.

Don't try to do it all at once

I think the biggest hurdle is always the first step, which is to get out of the chair and actually do something. Then last year I watched this interview with a very young entrepreneur who had her own social enterprise helping underpriveleged children, and she said something that was a real kick in the pants for me.
I think... something that they do a lot is they want their NGO's to be really large immediately, which is not going to happen... But if they start small and are practical, then it's really not that hard.
I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea. You should really check out the rest of the interview if you can, it's quite cool.

Don't assume that you always know what's best

This should be self explanatory. Generally just try and have a good handle on all the assumptions you're making about a particular problem and then keep your eyes and ears open to see if those assumptions pan out in the real world.

Don't be self-absorbed about your service to the the public, that's just the worst.

Don't worry that your efforts aren't big enough

Lastly, and this is a tough one, don't worry that the issues are just too large to make any kind of dent. You'd be surprised at the number of movements that have started from just a small dedicated team of like two or three people. 

Hey and if it's really getting you down, just think of the lesson of the 'Dancing Guy'.

Closing Thoughts

There was a version of this poem in our school diaries. Must've read this thing about a million times without really getting it, but I've gotten a new perspective on it over time:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

Edit (20/04/2013) : 
  • I should clarify that the elections as such are still on-going, it's just the Karnataka phase got done very recently.
  • Also, I added some more links to some projects I'm aware of. There are doubtless many more that're as deserving. 
  • Minor other changes.